|The Profound Side of Pizza|
Emma Brophy gets serious with Clever Wally’s creator Gregor Sokalski
When Clever Wally’s Raw Pizza was launched in Chiswick, I admit I was sceptical about the concept. Why would you have raw (the word alone did little for me) delivered to your doorstep only to have to cook it yourself? Nevertheless I gave it a try and, as owner Gregor Sokalski would put it, became a believer.
“Since chiswickw4.com’s review of Clever Wally’s in early February, the concept has seen repeated debate on the site’s Discussion Forum, with regular customers on one side and doubters of the concept on the other.” says Greg.
“Clever Wally’s has been mentioned in Waitrose Food Illustrated as well as nominated for UKTV’s ‘Local Food Hero’ and The Evening Standard’s ‘Food Spy’, William Sitwell, called Clever Wally’s “a pizza delivery revolution”.”
Take us back to the start, how did your one man pizza revolution begin?
“I grew up in Chicago, an unbelievable town for of course pizza, architecture, culture, and fantastic neighbourhoods of every ethnicity. I think the reason I’ve been so comfortable in London for the last eight years is because the neighbourhood feel is so much like home. There’s such a strong sense of community in Chiswick and it struck me as the perfect place for Clever Wally’s, a neighbourhood where I could build something local residents could consider their own. I’ve tried to make Clever Wally’s fun, engaging and unpretentious while in end providing customers with what I sincerely hope is the best pizza and customer service available.
“When I opened Clever Wally’s, I confess I hadn’t the faintest idea if I’d sell a single one. All I could do was put my best foot forward. I put my faith in the fact that our great ingredients combined with the bake-at-home idea just makes for one of the best pizzas I’d ever had, and I hoped and prayed that customers would feel the same way!
“Bake-at-home raw pizza is no gimmick. It legitimately makes for a hotter, crispier and fresher pizza than any other alternative. I’ve heard all the questions: Why would you order a raw pizza when you’ve got the boxed supermarket variety in the fridge or freezer for £3.00? Why order from Clever Wally’s when there’s a pre-cooked pizza delivery down the road? I’m happy to say I’ve found these same customers are now some our most regular visitors, grouping our pizzas among the best they’ve had, anywhere.”
As raw pizza delivery was an entirely new concept, it was an opportunity to set new rules as to the composition of the menu. There is a subtle English theme throughout and a conscious avoidance of typical Italian pizza classics. “What I wanted was a set of pizzas with flavour combinations that were easily “imagined” by English customers, if you will.”
He continued “So often take-away food compromises quality for convenience and we’ve learned to accept it. We’ve not only created a pizza that customers say is the best pizza delivery around, many customers tell us our raw pizza is one of the best pizzas they’ve ever had, anywhere. Now, that’s exciting.”
“Developing this pizza was a labour of love. It’s not as if I could hire a raw pizza expert to tell me how to do it, that person doesn’t exist, so I had to work it out myself. The dough was particularly tricky; it probably took me about six months to get it really right, and I blew up my Kitchen Aid mixer in the process. Only time and experience was going to teach me that no matter how great your ingredients are, if you don’t have a grasp of the art of bread making you’ll have a tricky time. It was quite a quest.”
Putting fun, games and Wally’s soapbox proclamations aside, if you had the time, the energy and the patience to create the perfect homemade pizza, you’d probably wind up with something a lot like Clever Wally’s. However, as with all good food, the secret is in the quality of the ingredients and pizza is no exception.
“I source as many ingredients as I can from local, English producers. We make our dough in store every day using a time-consuming traditional process with the artisan baker’s favourite organic flour, Gloucestershire’s Shipton Mill.
“Our chicken, ham and sausage, all free range, are sourced from the same English farm that supplies Partridges and Harrods Food Hall. The raw cookie dough that will appear for the first time on our Winter menu is made in a tiny kitchen by a husband and wife team that supplies farmers’ markets and gourmet shops.
“We receive daily deliveries of fresh vegetables and herbs, grate our own cheese, and use our very own bespoke tomato sauce that you won’t get anywhere else. Not to mention that I hunted high and low for the best pepperoni in London, and I’m pretty sure I found it!”
Greg’s modest attitude towards his instantaneous success is refreshing as is his respect for his customers.
“It can be a bit surreal speaking with 100’s of phone customers per week but only knowing what a few of them look like, so I’ve turned to calling up as many guests as I can to follow up on orders. A quick five minute conversation can tell you so much. It’s always flattering to hear what we’re doing right, but of course it’s so valuable to understand where we can improve. At the end of the day, the more I can understand about how our customers feel about Clever Wally’s, the better the product and service I’ll be able to deliver, the more satisfied our customers will be. It’s a virtuous circle.”
For those who remain dubious about giving raw pizza, Greg makes an offer that is hard to refuse.
“I’m pretty convinced that once you try Clever Wally’s pizza you won’t want to go anywhere else. To help push you over the edge I’m going to sweeten the deal with a 2-for-1 offer with your first purchase. If for whatever reason you don’t find this to be the best delivery pizza around, I’ll give you your money back, no questions asked, all you have to do is write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us!”